Today is my son’s birthday; he is eight years old. He is my firstborn.
I have been a parent for eight years. My parenting has evolved during that time.
When I was first pregnant with him, I had visions of a cheery, chubby baby who would enter my life, but wouldn’t alter it significantly. I’d still work, still exercise, still cook elaborate meals, and of course the house would remain clean! I’d still go about my daily business, but accompanied by a baby in a bouncy seat who would nap quite a lot, and giggle and smile the rest of the time.
I have no idea why I had these thoughts. I have a bachelor’s degree in child development; I knew without a doubt that babies are not like this! But yet I remained in my own little pretend world.
In my college years, I had learned the huge benefits of breastfeeding, and knew without a doubt that I would breastfeed my baby. In perusing the internet on breastfeeding information, I came across a term: attachment parenting.
This sounded fabulous! As my pregnancy progressed and I began to feel closer and more bonded to the baby inside me. I knew that this attachment parenting sounded right. To hold my baby as much as I wanted! To not encourage crying! To bring my baby everywhere! It sounded wonderful!
I looked at it from an academic point of view. Of course this would encourage bonding, and closeness, and would ease and eliminate the baby’s stress.
As such, I purchased a sling and a co-sleeper. But I also bought a crib. Aren’t you just supposed to have a crib? I had visions of me going into the baby’s room in the middle of the night to nurse him, happy as could be, and then laying him back down in his crib and going back to bed to finish my refreshing night’s sleep.
I felt ahead of the game and completely prepared because I started attending La Leche League when I was about six months pregnant. I read all sorts of breastfeeding books. I attended Bradley childbirth lessons. This whole baby thing was going to be a breeze!
And then he was born.
And I didn’t sleep for the next six weeks.
My son was born with an oral aversion which made nursing difficult. He cried. He woke in the middle of the night a lot. He didn’t smile or giggle or like his bouncy seat.
I was so tired.
It never occurred to me that a baby might be cold or hot or have a scratchy tag. He just cried, and I didn’t know why! Dressing him was completely unlike dressing a doll. Was I feeding him enough? Was I not feeding him enough? Our pediatrician told us about fevers, but how in the world do I know if my baby has a fever?
Why didn’t my husband have breasts so I could just sleep for four hours in a row?
Even though I knew the academics of attachment parenting, putting it into practice was like a lightbulb going off. My baby spent a total of one night in the co-sleeper, before he was just in our bed. We found that when we held him, he slept. He and I worked through the first part of the oral aversion and got our nursing down pat. After my husband’s month-long paternal leave ended, I was nervous about being alone with The Baby. We made it work; I held him for eight hours and read books while he nursed. As he got older we joined playgroups, mommy and me times, and attended LLL.
The crib became a toy repository and cat hideaway.
It is now eight years later, and my boy’s a second grader. He’s 100% on solid food. He sleeps all night, and in his own bedroom. Heaven help me if ever asked to be in the sling. He is responsible, smart, hardworking, kind, respectful, caring, empathic, and friendly.
Happy birthday to my amazing kid! You are the dream of my past, the joy of my present, and the key to the future.
I’ve previously written about my son’s oral aversion at API Speaks.